January 11, 2005

Excerpts: High Impact Middle Management - Part III

By: 800-CEO-READ @ 1:48 PM – Filed under: Management & Workplace Culture


It has been ten years since Flight of the Buffalo, the book that Jim Belasco and I wrote together, was published. These ten years have provided a lot of time to study and reflect on the ideas and principles espoused in that book. An active career as the CEO of a large, rapidly growing company and as a coach to leaders of other companies has provided many opportunities to test and refine my beliefs about what it takes to create an organization that continually performs at a high level.

We know that people are what make the difference in an organization. Their performance determines the performance of the organization. Great people make great companies. But what makes people great? That is what my book was abouthelping leaders to create an environment that helps and encourages people to rise to greatness. The question I have been pondering since that book is a more difficult one. What keeps people great over a period of time?

What I have found is that greatness doesnt just happen. People and organizations learn how to become great through constant effort. The few people who maintain their greatness over many years have learned to focus on becoming great, not on being great. It is that focus on becoming that keeps people learning and growing even though their performance is already at an extraordinary level.

Tiger Woods didnt start out great. He learned how to become great through many years of training both his mind and his body. This resulted in a great victory at the Masters, where he won with a record margin. Shortly after that victory, he realized that he had flaws in his swing that would prevent him from reaching his goal of being the greatest golfer in history. He spent the greater part of a year removing those flaws and has since played at a much higher level. I suspect that, even now, he is working on ways to once more widen the gap between him and his competitors.

Lisa Haneberg is very much like Tiger. She is driven to continuously learn and improve her effectiveness. We first met while working together to create high-performing leadership teams at a division of the Mead Paper Company. Her work there was outside the ordinary for a human resources person and it had a huge impact on her company. This work served as a springboard for her learning about performance, which she has doggedly pursued to this day. H.I.M.M.: Solutions for Todays Busy Managers is a result of that work.

H.I.M.M.: Solutions for Todays Busy Managers is a very important contribution to the study of organizational effectiveness because it focuses on the people who are the key to any organizations performance: the people in the middle. These are the people whose efforts determine the success of any endeavor. Leaders can design wonderful strategies, but the success of the organization resides in the execution of those strategies. The people in the middle are the ones who make it work. Based on all of the companies Ive seen, including my own, Ill take an average strategy that is extremely well executed over a great strategy with mediocre execution every time. That is why we spend a substantial amount of our development efforts on this group of individuals at my company. We know who drives our performance.

That is why this book is so valuable. When Lisa first asked me to write this foreword, she sent me the book to read. I found a number of excellent development concepts in it when I read it, so I gave it to our personnel development department. They found the book very helpful and have incorporated a number of concepts into work at Johnsonville Sausage. We think it will be very helpful in our efforts to become the best sausage company in the world. I am sure you will also find value in it.

Ralph C. Stayer
CEO & Owner
Johnsonville Sausage, Inc.
Entrepreneur, Consultant/Coach, Author
Author of Flight of the Buffalo: Soaring to Excellence, Learning to Let Employees Lead